Category Archives: Voting

Democrats citing Kobach to raise money

The Kansas Democratic Party is soliciting contributions for a “Kris Kobach Defense Fund,” e-mailing potential donors that “by creating a legal defense fund we can continue fighting Kris Kobach’s dangerous anti-voter agenda.” Party spokesman Dakota Loomis told Huffington Post: “Given Kobach’s repeated behavior, we expect to go to court in 2013 and 2014.” Kobach, Kansas secretary of state since 2011, pushed for the law requiring photo ID to vote that went into effect this year, and the requirement, as of January, that Kansans show proof of citizenship to register to vote.

Kansans have little in common with national voters

How much do Kansas voters differ from voters nationally? A lot. Political science professor Bob Beatty noted some of the striking differences reflected in exit polling, including: Mitt Romney won the male vote in Kansas by a whopping 40 points (69 to 29 percent). Nationally, Romney won men by 7 points (52 to 45 percent). Among younger voters, ages 18-29, Romney won by 13 points in Kansas (54 to 41 percent), while nationally Obama won those voters by 23 points. One big difference between Kansas and national demographics is race. Nationally, white voters made up 72 percent of all voters, and they went for Romney by 20 points (59 to 39 percent). In Kansas, whites were 87 percent of all voters and went for Romney by 31 points (64 to 33 percent). White men went for Romney by 27 points nationally (62 to 35 percent), but in Kansas 74 percent of all white men voted for Romney, giving him a 50-point advantage over Obama.

Most states will have one-party control

Though the federal government will remain divided – with Democrats controlling the White House and Senate, and Republicans in charge in the House – most state governments will be controlled by one party next year. Twenty-five states (including Kansas) will have Republican governors and Republicans in control of both houses of their legislatures, while 15 states will have Democratic governors and Democrats in control of their legislatures. One consequence of one-party control is that it can spotlight conflicts within a party, columnist Michael Barone noted, citing Kansas as an example. “The key event in Kansas politics this year was the defeat of moderate state senators by Republicans in the August primary,” he wrote. “The November election was irrelevant.”

Too many were disenfranchised by voter-ID law

Of the 80 Sedgwick County voters who showed up at the polls this month without a photo ID, 61 failed to later provide proof of their eligibility to vote and saw their ballots disqualified – not many, considering that 180,000 people in the county voted. But those are people whose votes would have counted in any election before this year, when Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s law requiring photo ID to vote took effect. And if you add up the number of such voters across Kansas’ 105 counties – seven in Reno County, eight in Saline County, 12 in Marion County, 16 in McPherson County, etc. – the tally of uncounted votes is significant and troubling. Rep. Ann Mah, D-Topeka, wrote in an online comment regarding McPherson County: I “recall that during the hearings on the voter ID law (which I supported at the time) all we heard was ‘one case of voter fraud was one too many!’ However, throwing out the votes of 16 U.S. citizens who were guaranteed that right under the Constitution in just one county is no big deal? Yes, it is. It would be 16 more votes lost than all of the actual voter fraud cases Secretary Kobach could find in the 2010 election – which was zero.” Mah, who narrowly lost her re-election bid this month, told The Eagle editorial board she intends to continue her scrutiny. But Kansans also will need lawmakers willing to safeguard the right to vote in Kansas. Last week Kobach characterized the 717 provisional ballots cast statewide because of photo ID issues as evidence that the new law is a success.

Huelskamp had some opposition after all

U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, won a second term this month without so much as a token third-party challenge. But nearly 800 voters in Reno County chose other candidates anyway, according to the Hutchinson News, variously writing in “someone else,” “anybody but,” “any warm body,” “a rock,” “any dipstick,” “no confidence,” Democrat, Betty Boop, Bob Dylan, Jesus Christ, Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. Some voters also used the opportunity to show unhappiness with Huelskamp’s failure to support extending the production tax credit for wind energy, which is tied to recent layoffs at Hutchinson’s Siemens plant. One voter wrote in “Wind Mill”; others wrote in Dave Kerr, the former state Senate president who has criticized Huelskamp and Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, on the PTC.

Florida shouldn’t trust Sedgwick County to count its votes

Miami Herald columnist Carl Hiaasen dubbed Florida the “joke state” for having taken four days to declare that President Obama had won its electoral votes. “We can’t count on Ohio or any of the swing states to bail us out again in 2016, so what are our options?” he asked. “In case you were wondering, the U.S. Constitution makes no allowance for a state to exempt itself from presidential elections in order to avoid national ridicule. Nor is there any legal mechanism by which Florida’s 11 million registered voters might have their ballots shipped somewhere safe to be counted – say, Kansas.” Hiaasen must not have heard about election night in Sedgwick County, which had seen no election results released by the time Obama won re-election.

Kobach claim about ballot photos is goofy

Secretary of State Kris Kobach has long peddled phony claims of voter fraud. But his latest push to make it illegal to take a picture of your election ballot is just goofy. Kobach said that, historically, ballot photos have been used by voters as evidence to show someone how they voted in return for payment or favors. Seriously? Where is that happening now? The reason some people take pictures of their ballots and post them on Facebook or Twitter is that they are proud of voting – an act that Kobach has been bent on making harder to do.

100 years of women’s voting rights in Kansas

Today marks the 100th anniversary of Kansas granting women full voting rights – just a day before a national election in which the political parties have been scrambling to win over women. Kansas voters – all of them men – approved a state constitutional amendment on Nov. 5, 1912, eight years before the ratification of the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote nationwide, the Lawrence Journal-World reported. The Kansas amendment passed 175,246 to 159,197. Two earlier attempts to pass a voting rights amendment had failed in Kansas in 1867 and 1894. However, Kansas women were allowed to vote in school elections from the start of statehood in 1861, and they were allowed to vote in municipal elections in 1887. In fact, Susanna Salter was elected mayor of Argonia in 1887, becoming the first female mayor in the nation.

Sedgwick County is due for smooth Election Day

All eyes will be on Sedgwick County Election Commissioner Tabitha Lehman on Tuesday during her first general election in charge. Will there be more problems with the electronic scanners that poll workers use to scan the photo IDs, as reported during the February and August elections and again during early voting last week? Will close races lead to repercussions from the troubling cases in which at least 64 people in the county received advance ballots intended for other precincts? And will the office release the election results in a timely manner Tuesday night? Or will there be a repeat of the August primary, when an election worker’s error led to the release of incorrect totals early on and the delay of final results until 11:15 p.m.? That was after some candidates and their supporters had given up, and as the state wondered what on earth was going on in Sedgwick County. Every election has its glitches, but more voting problems Tuesday will make it harder for the public to trust the results.

Politics should not get in the way of neighbors

With all the bile and mudslinging in politics today, it was refreshing to read last week about the Lamps and Lieses, next-door neighbors in the North Riverside neighborhood. The Lamps are dedicated Republicans, and the Lieses are dyed-in-the-wool Democrats. Their yards are filled with signs supporting opposing candidates. Yet they haven’t lost perspective on what really matters or how they should treat others with respect. “If our politics causes us to destroy or vilify our neighbor, then what good is the politics? It defeats everything,” Linda Lamp told The Eagle. Alan Lies added: “The neighbor concept is more important to us than politics.”

Moran concerned about military voting

Whatever the reason, it’s a serious concern that the number of absentee ballots requested by military service members is much lower this year than in 2008. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., brought welcome attention to the issue last week, accusing the Defense Department of failing to adequately assist service members in voting. “The Department of Defense has an obligation under federal law to assist those voting on military installations overseas. No effort should be spared to make certain the men and women serving our country in uniform – and the families by their side – can exercise their right to choose the leaders responsible for sending them into harm’s way in defense of our democracy,” Moran said in a statement. According to an August inspector general’s report, the Pentagon hadn’t set up on-base voter-assistance offices, as required by the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act of 2009.

Pennsylvania voter-ID law put on hold

Another voter-ID law has been blocked. This time it was in Pennsylvania, where a state judge said the law could not go into effect before the November election. Opponents of the law had argued that it was deliberately aimed at disadvantaging minorities, and they cited a top GOP state lawmaker who boasted that the law “is going to allow Gov. Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.” Last month, a federal court panel struck down a voter-ID law in Texas, and a state court blocked Wisconsin’s law. South Carolina’s voter-ID law is still tied up in federal court.

GOP having its own ACORN problem?

Republicans have greatly exaggerated the occurrence of voter fraud to justify new state voter-ID and registration laws. Meanwhile, a firm hired by the Republican National Committee and several state Republican parties has been submitting voter-registration forms with clear irregularities, including misspelled names and missing dates of birth. After news of the problems broke last week, the RNC fired the firm, Strategic Allied Consulting, which is run by a GOP strategist. Several states have begun investigations. Submitting fake voter-registration forms does not necessarily mean that someone would vote illegally – though that’s what Republicans claimed in 2008 when they accused the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN, of falsifying forms.

Do high school IDs work for voting?

With only six weeks left before the November elections, there is still confusion about what voter IDs are acceptable in Kansas. Brad Bryant, deputy assistant secretary of state, said he thinks that high school IDs would be allowable, but election officials in several counties don’t think they are, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported. There is also uncertainty about whether only public school IDs would be acceptable, or whether a private school ID would count, too. Meanwhile, the civil rights group Advancement Project issued a report Monday estimating that as many as 10 million Hispanic U.S. citizens may be deterred from registering and voting because of new voting laws. Mission accomplished?

Ryun a leader in effort to stop Democratic voter fraud

Secretary of State Kris Kobach isn’t the only well-known Kansas name on the GOP front lines in a fight against the so-called epidemic of voter fraud. A New York Times article noted that former U.S. Rep. Jim Ryun (in photo), who represented the 2nd Congressional District from 1996 to 2007, now chairs the Madison Project, a political action committee financing a plan called Code Red USA to blanket polling places in swing states with conservative election observers watching for Democrats bent on voter fraud. “Our mission is to organize, equip, train and mobilize grassroots conservatives to take back America,” says a Code Red USA video, which describes the “Obama political machine” as “absolutely determined to do anything to stay in power.”

GOP voting laws running into roadblocks

GOP efforts to erect roadblocks to voting have been running into their own roadblocks in the courts. And correctly so. Last week, a federal judge in Ohio blocked a GOP plan to end early voting on the Friday afternoon before Election Day. In 2008, more than 93,000 people in Ohio voted on the final weekend and Monday before Election Day, many of them African-Americans who voted after attending church. Federal judges also last week struck down Texas’ voter-ID law and a redistricting map that disadvantaged minorities. Also last week, a judge rejected new restrictions in Florida that would have prevented the League of Women Voters and other groups from registering voters. The week before that, a three-judge panel restored early voting in parts of Florida. South Carolina’s voter-ID law is still in court, and Pennsylvania’s law, which a state appeals court upheld recently, is scheduled for a state Supreme Court hearing next week.

GOP needs broader appeal

The GOP needs to broaden its appeal if it wants to win in November, columnist Michael Barone wrote in the Wall Street Journal. In the 2008 election, whites without a college education accounted for half of the votes cast for John McCain. When the GOP has had more success at the polls, it has appealed to a broader electorate. In 2010, for example, white no-college voters accounted for 42 percent of the voters for winning congressional Republicans. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., warned that the GOP can’t lose the demographics race. “We’re not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term,” he said.

Campaign spending record wasn’t surprising

It was no surprise  – especially for those who were deluged with campaign mailers – that spending by political action committees during the final days of the Aug. 7 primary set a new record. PACs spent nearly $800,000 in the last 10 days before the election. In 2010, they spent less than $15,000 in the final days. Half of the last-minute spending this year was by the Kansas Chamber of Commerce PAC, which targeted moderate GOP incumbents for defeat. Throughout the entire primary election cycle, the Kansas Chamber PAC spent $675,810, far more than any other PAC. And keep in mind, this is only the spending by PACs. It doesn’t include the spending by advocacy groups such as Americans for Prosperity, which doesn’t have to be disclosed.

Voter ID controversy will continue

A Pennsylvania judge decided today not to issue a preliminary injunction of his state’s new voter ID law, meaning that the requirements will be in place for the November presidential election unless the Pennsylvania Supreme Court intervenes. But the controversy will continue. GOP lawmakers argue that the law is needed to protect the integrity of voting. Others contend that the law is really aimed at reducing turnout among minorities and the poor. (The GOP House leader in Pennsylvania once boasted that the new law “is going to allow Gov. Romney to win the state.”) A national study released this week found only 10 cases of alleged in-person voter impersonation since 2000. That amounts to one case per every 15 million registered voters nationwide. An estimated 1.3 million voters in Pennsylvania don’t have the required ID.

Sedgwick County election commissioner failed first big test

Before the polls closed Tuesday, Secretary of State Kris Kobach seemed pleased with the primary and especially the first statewide test of the voter-ID law he advocated. “We have had good reaction all over the state,” he told the Kansas City Star. Too bad Kobach didn’t cap off his tour of polling places in Wyandotte, Johnson and Shawnee counties with a trip to Sedgwick County, which saw the slowest, most-confusing election night in memory. In the first big election for his appointee, Sedgwick County Election Commissioner Tabitha Lehman, her office initially sowed mass confusion by reporting advance-ballot totals as if they reflected the vast majority of the precincts, then inexplicably took more than four hours to deliver final numbers. During the day, there also were some glitches with the new electronic poll books, just as there had been in Wichita’s February special election. Kobach and Lehman need to ensure they are ready for the Nov. 6 turnout, which will be far bigger than Tuesday’s.

One county trying to remove barriers to voting

One Kansas county is trying to take some of the hassle out of getting a voter ID. Imagine that. The Douglas County Clerk’s Office began this week issuing free voter-ID cards to registered voters, the Lawrence Journal-World reported. The local system allows residents to avoid the long lines at the Division of Motor Vehicles. Residents also don’t have to produce a birth certificate (which many older citizens don’t have). Instead, the Clerk’s Office will accept a utility bill, bank statement, government check or other government documents (the same documents used to prove residency when registering to vote). The office also plans to send its employees to nursing homes and other sites to help people obtain IDs.

Voter-ID help for one nursing home; what about others?

During debates about the voter-ID rules this past legislative session, a nursing home in Peabody for people with mental health issues was mentioned frequently. Of the 51 residents at Westview Manor, only nine had IDs. Would they be disenfranchised? Well, last month Assistant Secretary of State Eric Rucker went to Peabody and personally helped Westview’s residents get IDs. Rucker “helped arrange transportation for residents born in Kansas to go to the nearest courthouse and arranged for courthouse officials to come to the facility and take pictures of residents born out of state for their IDs,” the Topeka Capital-Journal reported. This special attention is great for those residents, but what about other nursing homes? Their residents have to arrange for their own transportation to the local Division of Motor Vehicles, where they will have to wait in long lines. How many of those citizens won’t vote, or will have their votes rejected, because of the ID requirement? An Associated Press review found that more than 1,200 temporary ballots during the 2008 general election were tossed out in Indiana and Georgia, two states that require photo IDs to vote. Its conclusion: “The legitimate votes rejected by the laws are far more numerous than are the cases of fraud that advocates of the rules say they are trying to prevent.”

Voter restrictions too much for one GOP governor

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed three bills this week that his fellow Republicans had pushed as necessary to safeguard the integrity of elections – an issue Republicans in Kansas have promoted as well. Snyder vetoed bills that would have required photo ID to obtain an absentee ballot, required a ballot box affirmation of citizenship, and mandated training for groups doing voter-registration drives – something he said could “cause confusion.” Like Kansas, Michigan already requires those voting at the polls to show photo ID. Jennie Bowser of the National Conference of State Legislatures told the New York Times that “voter ID falls on very stark partisan lines, and there are very few exceptions to that. It’s unusual and notable when somebody crosses it.”

Voter restrictions blocked in Florida, defended in Wichita

The same day last week that Secretary of State Kris Kobach took some heat at a Wichita briefing on Kansas’ new voter-ID law, a federal judge blocked parts of a new Florida law regulating voter-registration drives. The Washington Post reported that it was the first time a federal jurist had struck down provisions in one of the voting laws passed since 2011 in nearly 20 states. The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law called it “a breakthrough victory for Florida voters and voting rights advocates nationwide.” Kobach has insisted that Kansas’ law, which requires photo ID to vote as of this year and proof of citizenship to register as of Jan. 1, will be “bulletproof in court.” But critics in Kansas and elsewhere still view these laws as less about fighting the negligible problem of voter fraud and more about suppressing turnout of poor and minority voters, who tend to vote Democratic. “If these laws suppress voters, I would not be for it,” Kobach told the Wichita crowd. Turnout will be closely watched as Kansans vote in August and November.

Good reasons not to rush voter-registration mandate

If the multiple messages sent by the 2011 Legislature about when the state should require proof of citizenship for voter registration weren’t enough, the delays in implementing a new Division of Vehicles computer system and completing redistricting should be. Yet the House inexplicably voted again this week to move up the proof-of-citizenship mandate to be effective June 15 rather than Jan. 1. Even if the threat of voter fraud were real and sizable, it wouldn’t justify passing such a document mandate before the state is ready. The Senate should say “no.”